By Anthony Haddad
In April, CA01 congressional candidate Audrey Denney received the Sunrise Movement’s first 2020 endorsement of a political candidate after signing a pledge to support the Green New Deal at a town hall in Chico. Since then, Denney has broken the spirit of that pledge by her recent endorsements of two people actively working to undermine the fight against climate change: Rusty Hicks for Chair of the California Democratic Party and Brian Dahle for California Senate.
The pledge Denney signed stated: “I pledge that I will use my office to advance and champion in any and all legal ways including but not limited to...working to build support amongst my colleagues for a Green New Deal at all levels of government; and publicly advocating for the necessity of a Green New Deal.” Yet by her recent endorsements of Hicks and Dahle, she has instead publicly advocated for candidates who would argue the Green New Deal is not only unnecessary, but foolhardy.
Denny endorsed Republican Brian Dahle for California State Senate on May 23. Dahle originally ran in an open-field primary of multiple candidates that included pro-climate Democrat Silke Pflueger. Denney declined to endorse Pflueger, telling the Pflueger campaign that because Denney is not an elected official she doesn’t endorse candidates.
In California primaries, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. Pflueger took third place, a loss that could have potentially been prevented with more well-known Democratic support from people like Audrey Denney. Then, Denney poured salt into the wound.
When Denney publicly endorsed Republican Brian Dahle over his Republican opponent Kevin Kiley, she made no argument that Dahle was some lesser-of-two-evils candidate. Instead, she praised Dahle with no reservations:
“I’m proud to support Brian Dahle in his race for State Senate District 1. I have always respected Brian as a man who works hard to get things done and reaches out across the aisle to find solutions to the complex problems that face our part of the world.
“Brian has brought state legislators from urban parts of the state on tours of our area to understand first hand what it is like to live in the rural part of the state, as well as understanding our agriculture and forestry issues. He is the classic example of a servant leader who puts people above political gamesmanship. Brian is a man of integrity, character, and action.
“If this is the leader you are looking for, consider voting for Brian Dahle for State Senate on June 4th.”
As an assemblyperson, Brian Dahle has an atrocious voting record, particularly on climate issues. In 2018, Brian Dahle voted in line with California Environmental Justice Alliance 7% of the time, with the California League of Conservation Voters 11% of the time, and with the Sierra Club California 0% of the time.
Dahle is a dirty-money climate-change denier, and it’s completely unacceptable that she supported him for State Senate.
Denney responded to criticisms of her endorsement of Dahle by saying: “One of the reasons I got into politics is that every day I wake up concerned about the rise of authoritarianism in this country, and how our democratic processes are eroding. I have seen that truth playing out in this Senate race for SD-1, as I hear daily from people who are choosing not to vote -- thereby allowing others to dictate the future of their communities.”
So according to Denney, not voting for a right-wing Republican is authoritarianism while endorsing him is democracy? Are we to take her seriously? It’s an absurd argument from a candidate who simply lacks a moral center when it comes to the ongoing climate crisis.
It’s also unacceptable that Denney supported fracking-fluid loving Rusty Hicks for the California Democratic Party Chair, who she supported over Kimberly Ellis. At a town hall in Grass Valley on May 7, Denney said “I have told Rusty that I’d vote for him in the first round. He had a great, really specific plan to talk about learning and development for our central committees in the northern part of the state.”
Meanwhile, Hicks has a record that is pro-business and anti-environment. Most recently, he signed a letter opposing a move to ban a hazardous acid from refineries. He has argued for exemptions to a $15 minimum wage law in Los Angeles and passionately opposed the South Coast Air Quality District Governing Board’s efforts to ban the fracking liquid Modified Hydrofluoric Acid, which many claim is dangerous to communities near fracking sites.
A February story about Hicks on citywatchla.com sums him up well: Hicks “oversees many of the unions that have great paying but horribly polluting jobs such as running our polluting electricity generating plants, maintaining our toxic gas fields, oil drilling and fracking and even jobs making polluting plastics from poisonous chemicals has announced he is running… He may talk about green energy, but his actions and part of his paychecks come from dirty energy.”
This is who Denney supported for the Chair of the California Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, Ellis supports the Green New Deal, has called for a ban on fracking, and has the moral center to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.
So why did Denney support Hicks over Ellis? It’s exceedingly unlikely that it was really about central committee education, as she claimed. Why did she fail to endorse Democrat Pflueger but eagerly endorse republican Dahle? She hasn’t explained. And it doesn’t really matter. She simply cannot take her Green New Deal pledge seriously and support Hicks and Dahle.
The Sunrise Movement should withdraw its endorsement of Audrey Denney.